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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

324                The Loom of Language
what should never have been together, will deny that the word-order
of literary Latin was amazingly "free " In reality, this so-called free
word-order was the greatest impediment to quick grasp of texts,
never composed, as are modem books, foi rapid reading by woilong
people The traditional narrative, as told above, omits to mention
the circumstance that the Latin of selected school texts existed on
wax or papyrus It was not the language which Romans used when
they talked to one another. The crossword puzzles of Cicero and his
contemporaries, like the Enghsh of Gertrude Stein or James Joyce, had
little to do with the character of the language they spoke It was the
exclusive speciality of literary coteries tyrannized by cadence, mesmer-
ized by metre, and enskved by Greek models Classical Latin belongs
to a period more than a thousand years before the printing-press
democratized reading and promoted systematic conventions of punc-
tuation, and other devices which have healed the breach between the
human eye and the human ear. We do not know the exact nature of
the word-order which Cicero used when bawling out to his slave, but
there can be little doubt that it was as fixed as that of colloquial Italian
The homely Latin of the Vulgate, though not an accurate record of
spoken Latin, probably stands nearer to it than the writings of any
classical author. Here is a passage from the parable of the prodigal son *
El abut,      et adhaesit uni
And he went and joined one
civium         regionis illms      Et misit ilium
of the citizens of that country And he sent him
in wllam suam ut pasceret po^cos     Et cupiebat
to iiis farm   to feed the pigs   And he longed
implere ventrem mum    de siliqms      quas
to fill his belly    with the husks which
pora manducabant            Et nemo ilh ddbat
the pigs ate      And nobody gave him anything
In se aiitem reversus>            di&it      quanti
After having come to himself he said How many
mercenam       in domo patns mei        abundant panibus>
servants in the house of my father have bread enough
ego autem hicfame           pereo.
while I am dying here from hunger
LATIN AS A LIVING LANGUAGE
By the time the Western Roman Empire collapsed, case-distinction